Keeper- The Space Between Your Teeth

 

Keeper The Sace Between Your Teeth album cover ghostcultmag

2015 was a big year for Californian duo Keeper: the original issue of EP The Space Between Your Teeth following mere months after their mammoth split with Sea Bastard, and just weeks before an evil joint release with Canadians Old Witch. This reissue (Third I Rex) sees its two epic, crawling tracks get a fresh press and boy, do they deserve it.

The howling, lamenting guitar opening ‘The King’ decorates a Funeral pace before Penny Keats’ hideous, prurient larynx covers the body in unholy juices. A Blackened scream full of pain, evocative of ex-Lord Mantis rasper Charlie Fell, its relentless pitch is both unnerving and affecting. The weight of the brutal yet monolithic mid-section is pulverising and lifted only slightly by the evocative bass passages of Jacob Lee, so reminiscent of Dylan Desmond. This graces the final move toward a consuming, resounding swell: a euphoric yet terrible triumph, The Great Diseased railing to the skies against their plight.

Segueing seamlessly into ‘The Fool’, Keats’ slightly more uplifting drum pattern duels against the harrowing squall before a reverb-drenched riff accompanies more horrific utterances. With a filthier, more malevolent expression does the EP’s second half spew forth, creeping with similar intent to that of the girl emerging from the well in the remake of The Ring. It’s an oppressive sound yet, with the merest hint of quickened pace from those cleverly dictating drums, it is lifted from the occasionally turgid monotony: a gradually building wall of portent suddenly dropping into an utterly crushing mid-section. In raising the track back from the floor Keats’ voice assumes demonic proportions in both foetid hostility and power, underpinned by more subtle bass lead, until a barely controlled explosion seeps and squeals through the speakers, and alarming drums send the fulminating close careering into the dank earth.

It’s hard to acclaim a reissue as a tour de force, but this is as close as it gets. It’s a testing listen yet, for those of us with a more disgusting and slow musical palate, it’s an opportunity to bask in the most wondrous embodiment of acrid recrimination and ferocious protest.

8.5/10.0

PAUL QUINN

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Nightslug – Loathe

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Metal, especially Extreme Metal, can be somewhat… single-minded. It doesn’t need to be a bad thing – this unsubtle devotion to conjuring a particular mood or emotion has led to some of the most beloved classics of the genre – but sometimes a can be so focussed on their goal that they forget to include anything else.

Nightslug are horrible. Being horrible is what they do. It’s all they do. Sewage thick guitars, crude, ugly riffs, tortured vocals and bursts of feedback-laden noise create a genuinely unpleasant atmosphere, but it’s not clear what they really want to do with that atmosphere once they have it. Riffs churn endlessly with no clear aim in sight, tension is built and not effectively released, and tracks run into another with no real sense of purpose. One of the biggest traps in playing this kind of Sludge or slow Doom is the very fine line between hypnotic and boring – and it’s a trap that Nightslug never really release themselves from.

Part of the problem with Loathe (Broken Limbs/Dry Cough/Lost Pilgrims) is that in the last few years a number of bands – Keeper, Primitive Man and Indian amongst them – have been pushing the envelope on music which is both disgusting and interesting. Abstract compositions and elements of psychedelia and Electronic Noise have taken sludge metal into disturbing, engaging new territories – but Nightslug just want to keep playing big horrible riffs all day and croaking. I can imagine them going down well live in the right context, but on record there’s just not enough to distinguish them from a large number of other bands who’ve done the same thing.

If you’ve been reading this and wondering what I’m complaining about, then it’s probably worth giving Loathe a shot. Nightslug achieve exactly what they set out to, and they’re certainly garnering positive reviews elsewhere for doing so, but if your expectations of disgusting, slow music have been raised by recent releases from more adventurous bands, you’re likely to find Loathe disappointing in its lack of ambition.

 

5.0/10

Nightslug on Facebook

 

RICHIE HR

Primitive Man – Home Is Where The Hatred Is

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Abstract is the new brutal. The principal focus of Extreme Metal has always been to make music that sounds as violent or destructive as possible, but over the last couple of years a growing number of bands in different sub-genres have embraced a more subtle approach. Whether it’s Gnaw Their Tongues and their followers blending Black Metal with Noise elements, Blut Aus Nord embracing dissonance or Portal deconstructing familiar Death Metal into something totally other, it’s becoming more common to encounter Extreme Metal which doesn’t so much punch your face as make you doubt its existence.

Primitive Man are one of a current circle of bands – Sea Bastard, Keeper and Indian among their peers – engaged in stripping so-called “Sludge”, that ugly child of Punk and Black Sabbath, of its Blues influences and sense of groove and focussing entirely on its capacity for bleakness and discomfort, and are arguably the leaders in their circle when it comes to abstraction. Home Is Where The Hatred Is (Relapse) continues from their independent debut album Scorn with thirty minutes of abstract rhythms, broken chords and growled vocals that steadfastly refuse to describe anything as uplifting or recognisable as a riff.  It’s a thick, genuinely unsettling morass of noise and almost ambient amp abuse, and when they do allow themselves a brief moment of Grind-fuelled violence at the start of Downfall it’s almost a relief – though one that’s rapidly overtaken as the song collapses once again into dissonance and atmospherics. There are similarities to Khanate, of course, in their use of dissonance and unorthodox song structures, but as their name would suggest they seem less artful and refined, more… well… primitive.

It is extremely difficult to criticise HIWTHI, not because it’s without flaws, but because any apparent weaknesses (tracks blurring into another; the lack of satisfying climax; the sense of dislocation and frustration that pervades) are so obviously the result of very deliberate choices by the band.  They’re not bugs, to borrow from the clichés of IT, but features. This isn’t the dirty, angry Rock ‘n Roll of Eyehategod or Iron Monkey, and it doesn’t seek to press the same buttons – this is genuinely ugly, unsatisfying, dissonant music from a band who aren’t interested in catharsis or making you rock out.

 

8.0/10

Primitive Man on Facebook

 

RICHIE HR

Keeper / Sea Bastard – 12″ split

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Sea Bastard, Brighton’s kings of monstrous doom, have made a huge impression in 2014 with their  sophomore full-length Scabrous (Mosh Tuneage / Dry Cough), and here they set out to reinforce their place in the murky backwaters of the psyche with the more than able assistance of Californian duo Keeper.

There’s a track each on this nefarious ‘split’, issued by Dry Cough in Europe and soon by Medusa Crush in the US and both are of the nastiest, most monumental evil imaginable, running to 35 minutes in total. Keeper’s contribution, ‘777’, is a mere bagatelle at fourteen minutes, but is the kind of blackened doom immediately evoking comparison with Indian and Lord Mantis, Penny Keats‘ hateful scream coating claustrophobic atmospheres and rhythms veering from sparing and slow to an oppressive swell. The pace of the verse structure is torturous, dictated by tolling riffs and Keats’ resonant percussion, really allowing the harrowing horror to wind freely around the gut. It’s gloriously uncomfortable and twitch-inducing, with the squalling lead feedback of the last few moments utterly nerve-shredding.

The ‘Bastard’s twenty-minute stroll through the swamps, ‘Astral Rebirth’, is a lumbering, jurassic behemoth stalking its prey. The intake of breath prior to Ian ‘Monty’ Montgomery‘s vocal commencement is as effective and portentous as the ensuing delivery, a murderously deep and slow growl which suits Oli Irongiant’s funereal riffs, Steve Patton’s bass prowl and George Leaver‘s fearful, summoning drums. The central riff section is about as downturned as it’s possible to get, with a wailing lead undercurrent, and when that voice kicks back in to introduce a tribal quickening it is both brutal and terrifying – that lead showing brief periods of frenetic explosion which add to the slow, chopping destruction in the latter stages.

There’s a controlled brutality here, heavier yet just as ominous, this is from a dark place which no soul should inhabit but thank God for us listeners they do. Nod majestically at the front, ye worshippers, this is a mighty, frightening split highlighting the best aspects of two bands whose diseased outlook is matched by their deliberate, tolling power.

 

8.5/10

Keeper on Facebook

Sea Bastard on Facebook

 

PAUL QUINN